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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: It's Not So Easy Being An Oligarch




So why is it, exactly, again, that the oligarchs need to meet the president?


Oh, right: The oligarchs need to learn "the new rules of the game." They also want to "reach an agreement" where they will obey the law f provided it sounds attractive enough. In other words, this is President Vladimir Putin's big chance, in the oligarchs' view, to give them his best "crime doesn't pay" sales pitch.


"[The Kremlin] should tell us what to do next," said Uneximbank founder Vladimir Potanin in an interview with the Financial Times. "Many oligarchs are tired of the lack of well-defined rules and are waiting for the Kremlin to define the guidelines."


Potanin says the oligarchs are wondering: Do we have to start obeying the law yet?


"Many oligarchs fly to the south of France in their private jets and rent yachts, they spend $2 million to $3 million a year, but then they put these costs down as business expenses. This is unethical," Potanin explained oh-so-helpfully. "We [oligarchs] should say to people: 'You think we were bad, but we want to be normal and socially acceptable.' Let us promise we will all pay our personal taxes."


Oh, let's do! C'mon, it'll be fun!


The oligarchs have gotten so used to pious nonsense about tax evasion being morally OK because "taxes are high" that they just chatter away self-confidently about writing off yacht rentals and hiding their money in Europe (where personal income taxes are higher than they are in Russia, don't forget: Oligarchs evade personal income tax not because it is high but because they can).


Potanin, the Financial Times tells us, also suggested that Putin on Friday hand the oligarchs "a new code of conduct," so that, as the FT put it dryly, "the oligarchs would know what is bad and what is good."


It's all so surreally ? earnest. We want to be good! Tell us how! Imagine one of the oligarchs standing up tomorrow and saying, "Well, how about murder? Is killing people still OK? Or is that out now? Because lots of us oligarchs here are really tired of the lack of undefined rules about this. What's the new policy on murdering business rivals?"


And Vladimir Gusinsky will be watching it all from Spain. Gusinsky's treatment f reviled, arrested, scorned as a traitor "struggling against the state," then just as contemptuously released, provides all sorts of insights into where Russia is headed.


But look a little deeper at Gusinsky himself, however, and it's clear he's an oligarch too: He doesn't know how to be good, or even polite.


He has had not a word for his defenders f not a hint of what he gave up so as to run to Spain. Perhaps he surrendured NTV itself? (Remember Kommersant a year ago?) Perhaps he gave up all of us, period?